Turn Island is a kayaker’s dream. With its pebble beaches and shoreside campsites, this marine state park is a social destination for the paddling crowd, or a quiet place in the off-season.
After beaching your kayak (or tying up to a mooring buoy and bringing your dinghy ashore), take some time to discover this interesting park.
The island’s perimeter trail, best taken counterclockwise, starts in a stand of madrone trees above a rocky beach, where blue herons share space with raccoons. The path goes up and down (trekking poles are recommended), boasting water views around every turn. A field of fuzzy mosses and lichens makes an excellent rest stop before rounding the final bend.
Set up camp on a small butte above the beach (first come, first served), or enjoy some chill time before paddling through the islands. You also can head across the water to the shops and eateries of nearby Friday Harbor.
Located on Puget Sound in San Juan County, Turn Island State Park offers three mooring buoys.
The main area to access the island is on the cove on the northwest harbor, near the mooring buoys. The cove to the west has a reef that extends out from the small island. It is not recommended to use this beach.
Latitude: 48° 32' 1.96" N (48.5338) Longitude: 122° 58' 27" W (-122.9741)
Moorage fees are charged year round from 1 p.m. to 8 a.m. All boaters must register and pay upon arrival. Boaters must also pay a fee for boats rafted to another boat.
Turn Island has 12 primitive campsites and three buoys. Camping is available on a first come, first served basis. This island is a wildlife refuge. Visitors should stay on designated hiking trails. Fires are not permitted. Camp stoves are allowed. Please do not disturb the wildlife.
Turn Island was originally mapped as a point on San Juan Island by the United States Exploring Expedition of 1841. American explorer and naval officer Charles Wilkes named it Point Salsbury, after crewmember Francis Salsbury. It was later found to be an island at a turn in San Juan Channel, and was named Turn Island on the 1858-59 British Admiralty Chart by Admiral Sir George H. Richards.
The island was managed as a marine state park under a lease from the federal government from 1959 until 1976 when it was included in the newly established San Juan National Wildlife Refuge. Management for recreational purposes by Washington State Parks has continued since 1959.